June 5, 2018 by admin
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COUNCILLORS will would be allowed to abstain from voting at meetings under changes proposed by the state government.
Parliament is debating an amendment to the Local Government Act to remove the compulsory requirement for councillors to vote on issues.
Under existing law, there is no prescribed penalty for not voting. The only way for a councillor to legally not vote is by declaring a conflict of interest.
Changes to the Local Government Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill will allow a motion to pass by a majority of votes.
Long-time Casey councillor Wayne Smith said he disagreed with an abstention option because it would allow councillors to avoid controversial votes. “I think it’s a bit of a cop-out to sit there and hear all the arguments, and then decide not to vote.”
The deputy mayor said councillors could avoid casting a vote by leaving the chamber beforehand, but believed it had not happened in his 15 years on Casey council. “I can’t recall anyone who ever has.”
Minister for Local Government Jeanette Powell said requiring councillors to vote but having no sanction if they did not undermined the authority of the act.
“Requiring a majority of councillors present to vote in favour of a motion for it to be successful protects the integrity of the decision-making process.
“After the changes are in place, voting patterns will be closely monitored to see how councils apply the new rules.”
In debate on the amendment on August 15, shadow minister for local government Richard Wynne said the compulsory requirement to vote should not be repealed.
“We say that action is not right and that it sends a poor message to the local government sector to the effect of ‘Do your best. Maybe you want to vote; maybe you don’t want to vote’. This is not on.”
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